In 2004, Nepali citizen and Australia Awards scholar Madhu Marasini, graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) with a Masters of International and Development Economics. A decade later, Madhu is now Chief/Joint Secretary International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division of the Ministry of Finance in Nepal, leading the direction of foreign aid to finance development projects in Nepal’s prioritised sectors. He also continues to promote the benefits of the Australia Awards and, in his role as a high-achieving alumnus, recently participated in the selection of 39 Nepali Australia Awardees for the 2014 intake.
The benefits of Australian Government scholarships in supporting the development priorities of countries through educational opportunities have been acknowledged by Mr Marasini, who has said that, “the Australia Awards have changed my thinking and improved my confidence level. This opportunity was an eye opener too. I hope future scholarships to Nepal will help create a good pool of talent in Nepal, and develop people who can really contribute to the economic development of this country.” Following on from this comment, Mr Marasini was kind enough to spend some time answering questions related to his time as an awardee, which are shared below.
What are the achievements you are most proud of so far?
I have institutionalised the Aid Management Platform (AMP) in the Ministry of Finance, which is now a public portal on aid data in Nepal. Today, anyone living in any corner of the world can access Nepal’s aid information from their own home. This will not only help enhance aid transparency but also assists in augmenting aid effectiveness. Nepal’s AMP now has become an exemplary tool. Many aid recipient countries have been visiting Nepal to learn from our experience.
Likewise, when I was working for the Inland Revenue Department, I worked to introduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) system in Nepal for the first time. I am happy to see that now the VAT is one of the major sources of revenue for the Government of Nepal. The VAT system, as well as my work establishing the Anti-Money Laundering Department, has paved a stronger way for tax reform in Nepal.
What do you think are the main development priorities for Nepal, and what changes would you like to see in Nepal in the next decade?
Nepal's infrastructure has room to grow. Building infrastructures of power and roads are critically important. Economic growth cannot be achieved, and employment cannot be generated, without the availability of electricity and road connection. Nepal should focus on utilising its abundant water resources to produce electricity and boost export. Tourism is another sector, where we have the comparative advantages too. Similarly, as over 70% of the population still live in farming communities, enhancing agricultural productivity and promoting commercialisation of agriculture is another critical priority.
Thinking back to your time as an Australia Awardee, what did you gain from your experience in Australia?
I gained self-confidence, an understanding of multicultural values and expanded my contacts and networks. I have been able to apply the knowledge and skills that I had learned at ANU to my job. The teachers were superbly helpful, and the Aussie people were very friendly. After finishing my Masters at ANU I gained a promotion to the joint secretary level of the Government. That is just one step behind becoming a Secretary of the Government of Nepal.
What kind of friendships and professional connections have you maintained since your return to Nepal, and how have these benefited you?
I am in constant touch with friends from other countries who have been working in the ministries of finances, foreign affairs and other multilateral and bilateral development organisations such as Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and DFAT. We exchange views from time to time on the issues related to economic and social development in our respective countries and at the global level too. I have also been maintaining regular contact with some of my professors from ANU. Their emails encourage me to take challenges and apply new knowledge into my work.